In today’s blog post, we examine a vital part of the adoption process – the Home Study. Throughout the post, you will be introduced to three Adoption STAR social workers you may encounter along your home study journey.
Often we are asked questions from prospective adoptive parents. Their concern is over a process known as the home study.
What Is A Home Study?
The term home study means an assessment of the safety and suitability of placing the child in the home of the prospective parent(s) based on an evaluation of a home environment conducted in accordance with applicable state requirements to determine whether the proposed placement would meet the individual needs of the child, including the child’s safety; permanency; health; well-being; and mental, emotional, and physical development.
A home study is a document prepared by an agency social worker, which details the adopting families’ personal feelings and values surrounding child rearing, development, and other interpersonal issues. It is a requirement for any adoption. Adoption STAR believes that home studies should be an educational process allowing the clients and agency to get to know each other and to identify what adoption path the client is most comfortable with. Though a home study is required by law prior to an adoption placement, Adoption STAR conducts their home studies in a way in which they are not viewed as just a “stamp of approval” to adopt. The home study should include three visits with a social worker, one of which must be in the home of the prospective adoptive family.
Angela Laman, MA, LSW
Angela Laman is the Program Director of Adoption STAR in Ohio. She is a Licensed Social Worker, Adoption Assessor and Certified Mediator. For several years, Angela worked as an independent contractor for many agencies providing home studies and other adoption services.
The following is a list of some of the issues that may be explored during an adoption study:
- Ability to provide for a child’s physical and emotional needs.
- Feelings about parenting an adopted child and the ability to make a commitment to a child placed in the home.
- Type of child family seeks to adopt.
- Family’s child rearing practices, experiences, and beliefs.
- Information concerning marital relationship, emotional, and financial status, etc.
- Description of the family’s home and community.
There are times when concerns arise during the home study process. If this is the case a family will never be surprised by first reading a rejection letter as any and all concerns will be addressed directly with the family and often there are opportunities rather than barriers to continue with a favorable home study.
Several tools are available to the family and agency. One is referred to as a Safety Assessment.
What Is A Safety Assessment?
If an agency is working with an adoptive parent who is looking to adopt a child and it is learned, through the search and retain procedures for criminal background checks, that the adoptive parent has been arrested for a mandatory disqualifying crime, a safety assessment must occur. A safety assessment must also be performed whenever an agency learns that a person in the home has a conviction or open charge for a crime irrespective if there are any children in the home.
The Safety Assessment is a documented assessment promoting valid decision-making and planning, and supporting major decisions affecting the safety, permanency, and well being of children by careful, comprehensive, and timely reviews and evaluations of all relevant material.
There are very specific steps for the safety assessment, as well as actions an agency must take if there are children already placed in the home, but not yet adopted. If there is a child placed in the home, the safety assessment is used to determine whether or not the child can remain.
Adoption STAR requires those clients who need a Safety Assessment to also obtain an independent psychological evaluation.
Lynlee Barbour, LMSW, MPH
Lynlee earned her Masters degree in Social Work as well as one in Public Health at the University at Buffalo. During her time earning her MSW Lynlee was Adoption STAR’s intern and now loves her time as a Home Study Social Worker.
When is a Psychological Evaluation Required?
A home study requires the agency to take into account and to assess the person’s psychological readiness to assume responsibility for a child. Psychological screening and testing may play a crucial role in determining suitability to adopt. It is not un-common for this process to take a couple of months to complete. Assessment is conducted by a mental health professional outside of the agency. The psychological may include obtaining family history, educational background, assessment of stability, motivation to adopt, current life stressors and coping skills, difficult or traumatic reproductive history, interpersonal relationships, sexual history, history of major psychiatric and personality disorders, substance abuse in donors or first degree relatives, legal history, history of abuse or neglect.
The agency may require psychological testing including an MMPI-2 or other personality type tests from a licensed psychologist. Circumstances that may prompt The Agency to request such supplemental information may include, but not be limited to: history of mental illness such as post traumatic stress disorder, clinical depression, past criminal history, substance abuse history, significant marital issues and/or previous divorces, etc.
Written results of any psychological testing as well as clinical observations or other observations made by the agency staff may be noted within the home study document.
What Information Is The Agency Seeking From A Psychologist?
The agency is seeking information on their motivation to adopt, assessing their stability, interpersonal relationships, ability to parent, history of any abuse, personality disorders, etc. In addition to the factual information obtained, the report must provide the psychologist’s recommendation, based on the information obtained, as to whether or not the applicant(s) would jeopardize the physical and/or mental welfare of any child placed in their home. This language is required as per state regulations when determining whether or not an applicant is to be approved for adoptive parenthood.
How Does The Agency Obtain The Assessment?
Applicants would sign a release permitting the results to be sent directly to Adoption STAR.
Kathy Crissey, MS, LMHC
Kathy has been affiliated with Adoption STAR for many years. Kathy is a licensed mental health counselor and adoptive mom. Her professional and personal life experiences and kind heart make it no surprise that she is a much loved and enjoyed adoption professional.
When is Additional Medical Information Required?
Sometimes a client has experienced significant health issues, such as treatment for a long-term illness such as cancer. When this occurs the client will be required to provide additional medical information and possibly a letter from the physicians involved with their care and treatment. It is important that the physician issue a written statement that the patient is in such physical condition that it is reasonable to expect him/her to live to the child’s majority and have the energy and other abilities needed to fulfill parental responsibilities.
Discontinuation Of A Home Study Process
If the clients along with the agency decide that the adoption study should be discontinued then the clients will be informed in writing of the discontinuation of the adoption study and the applicant’s record shall reflect the discussion leading to such mutual agreement.
If an applicant selects to “withdraw” or discontinue from the home study process or the adoption process, they will be requested to provide this information in writing to the agency and the statement will be placed in their file. In order to be reconsidered by the agency in the future, the individual/couple must re-register with the agency.
Read More about the Home Study Process:
- Questions and Answers
- Home Studies
- Post Placement Supervision
- Adoptive Parents FAQ
- The Adoption STAR Home Study Process
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